First Kiss

Photo by Danielle McCann Photography, Florence, Ala.

I promised my husband years ago that I would be professional and not fill my blog up with photos of cute kids and kittens, but who could resist this portrait of a First Kiss?  Older Grandson and the daughter of photographer Danielle McCann are both 4 1/2 and, truthfully, have been in an arranged marriage since before they were born. Their mommies are great friends, they are both adorable and they both have the ability to wiggle out of any trouble the other has gotten them both in. We were all at Younger Grandson’s first birthday party and the mommies suggested these two kiss for the camera. “We were only expecting a peck on the cheek,” Older Daughter said, “and then they both leaned in and this is what we got.” I especially love the hand-holding and the feminine gesture of holding her hair back. This definitely is going in their wedding slide show.

Why I’m a Writer, Not a Photographer

You know that we are a newspaper family. My husband is the sports editor at the Daily Journal in Tupelo, Miss., and even though I’m a former practitioner of an escapee from daily-newspaper writing, I still love it when he needs my help. He’ll say, “Sweetie, what are you doing on such-and-such a day? I really could use an extra hand,” which I’m pretty sure is not how he makes assignments to DailyJournal sportswriters. But I’ll take it. Some of the things I help him with are 10K runs, such as the annual Coca-Cola Classic Corinth 10K. Even the most organized runs — which the Coke Classic is — tend toward managed chaos at the finish line. This is especially true for sports reporters as they try to identify and interview winners whose top priority is to find shade and a shower and why-are-these-folks-following-me-and-sticking-cameras-in-my-face-when-I-really-can’t-breathe? Very tricky stuff. So when my husband covers one of these races, he hires me as his assistant. And while secretly I consider it my job to keep an eye on him as he interviews attractive young women as he runs around in the Mississippi heat and humidity, at the Coke Classic he wanted me to 1) photograph winners as they crossed the finish line and 2) keep up with where they were in the finish-line crowd so he could get quotes.  For this past Saturday’s Coke Classic I managed the second assignment perfectly and helped my husband get a good story. The first, as you can see, not so much.

Eats, Shoots and Tofu

Picking the right spot for lunch is important. It can set the tone for the rest of your day, so you want to make sure you get it right. For example, if you’re in Huntsville, Alabama, and you want someplace quiet and sleek and soothing in a grownup sort of way, then go to Sun Cafe on Old Monrovia Road. This gem of a restaurant offers Asian dishes and an innovative sushi bar along with attentive service that is so good you’ll be in & out within your alloted lunch time without ever once feeling rushed — or abandoned. The food is flavorful and fresh, and you’ll return to your desk feeling reinvigorated. Unless, of course, you’re there at the same time as we were: a trio of grandmother, 7-months-pregnant Older Daughter and incumbent grandson 3-year-old Capt. Adorable. Older Daughter and I, for the most part, behaved ourselves. and the Captain did not misbehave, exactly. He just, in his usual “I-love-everybody-and-I’m-quite-sure-everybody-loves-me-too” 3-year-old way, talked to everybody he could see when standing up in our booth. And then, when socializing got too much and he needed a break, he flopped down on the cushion to take a quick nap before popping back up to continue his conversations. Luckily, everybody there smiled patiently and thought to themselves, “I would never allow MY children to behave like that out in public,” seemed equally as delighted to share their lunch hour with the Captain, so it all turned out okay. And I have to apologize for the lack of photos here. I’ve got a new camera — a Nikon P90S or something — that I’m still figuring out how to use. My centuries-old Kodak EasyShare was a clunker in comparison, and I’m unlearning all the quirky bad habits I had to develop to work around the Kodak’s limitations. It’s as if my new camera can actually read my thoughts and KNOW what I want to do before I actually do it. This means I have to think nice thoughts such as “Oh, the light is lovely there so I need to press the shutter NOW” instead of “Why won’t this #$%^& shutter press when I want it to?” It’s a challenge.

A Genius is Revealed — or, Why I Think Capt. Adorable Will Make Me Famous

This is one of 3-year-old grandson Capt. Adorable’s first attempt at actual photography. Genius! Brilliant!! Oh-so-talented!!! He’s sitting on his grandad’s tractor at his grandparents’ place in Tuscumbia, Ala. — which is about his top No. 1 thing to do, although we suspect that one day he’ll figure out how to turn it on and go plow the lower 40. On this afternoon, he’d gathered an admiring posse of girl cousins and their friends — another favorite activity — and then decided to round out this duo of red tractors and adoring females with another of his obsessions: Examining anything that clicks, moves and has tiny little parts — in this instance, my camera. So he leaned over from the tractor, grabbed it out of my hands and was snapping photos before I could say, “If you turn off the flash and use the ‘normal,’ setting, you’ll get a better shot.” He needs to work on lining things up and getting everybody in the frame, but maybe he was making an artistic statement here … you know, about postmodernism in an irony-less world and the interaction of our natural environment with human productivity combined with personal questions about the the supposed mutual exclusiveness of reality and representation. (I don’t know what any of that means, either, but thank you, Mr. Google, for teaching me how to talk like an art reviewer.) Of course, almost anything the Captain does is perfect to me, so I believe this is the start of a successful photographic career as well as the origins of a new style of photography that will come to be called the Hawk Pride Mountain Style and I’ll end up on the Today Show in 30 years saying, “Yes, I knew my grandson was a genius as soon as he grabbed the Canon PowerShot out of my hands.”

Can I Call Myself A Photographer Even If I Didn’t Get Paid?

Woo-hoo! It finally happened: I got published!!! Well, sort of, anyway. But not for writing. See this book cover? Look on the far left-hand side, the second photo down, where the “3” is. See that photo of a cotton field? That photo, my friends, is mine. It came from me and my trusty beat-up old Kodak EasyShare that rattles around in my purse and usually is smeared with lipstick and coffee. The photo’s also on page 113 of the book, with my name. Spelled properly, too. Surprised? Me, too! What happened is that several months ago, I got an e-mail from someone named Sam Crowther. He said he was writing a book about growing up in Texas and needed a photo of a cotton field. He had found a blog post I’d written about cotton fields and wondered if he could use the photos. I have to admit that at first I was suspicious. Sounds like some sort of scam, right? But then I googled “Sam Crowther” and found out he’s a real person from an upstanding community-minded family and he actually did grow up in San Angelo, Texas, where his grandfather owned the hardware store. So there. I gladly gave Mr. Crowther permission to use the photos and then promptly forgot all about it, until this book arrived in the mail a few days ago, and there I am — well, my photo, anyway. I’m serious here — I totally was thrilled to see a photo I’d taken printed right there in a real live book. Amazing! Who says that blogging doesn’t actually lead to fame and fortune??? And I’m serious here, too: Mr. Crowther’s book is a fascinating read. He tells wonderful heartwarming stories of his small-town childhood and other anecdotes of his life that I’m betting you’ll relate to. E-mail him at Crowther to learn more.

Photography and Writing

Photo by Mark Wood, Chattanooga, TennesseeMy four-years-younger brother, Mark Wood, of Chattanooga, Photo by Mark Wood, Chattanooga, TennesseeTennessee, is an awesome photographer. He teaches photography and art at Chattanooga (Tennessee) State College and recently was invited to exhibit with the Appalachian Photographers Project, I love that his photos reflect exactly the sort of person he is: A lover of nature and all things outdoors coupled with a belief that people basically are good — sort of. He also has a wry sense of humor and a wonderful eye for detail and line. I wish I could say I taught him everything he knows, but actually the opposite is true — although he probably would not want me to credit him for my photography (non)skills.

Since photography isn’t my forte, it’s a good thing I can at least string a few words together to make at least some sense. Here’s my weekly newspaper column from this past week on how my 1-year-old grandson is all boy, despite my attempts to encourage his inner girly side: Friends who had both girls and boys say there’s an inherent difference and I’m seeing that in Capt. Adorable. However, there’s a great discussion on this topic at blogher — — about what “acting like a boy” and “acting like a girl” really means and how this gender stereotyping may be harmful. Check it out and see what you think.


Danielle McCann PhotographyThese photos were taken by a young woman who’s starting her photography Danielle McCann Photographybusiness in Florence, Alabama, and I am so impressed both with her and her talent. Danielle McCann was friends with both my daughters when they were all in high school together — she and my older daughter were in the same class and she and my younger daughter shared the same goofy sense of humor. Since then, Danielle has started her professional photography business, gotten married and had a baby daughter who’s about the same age as my older daughter’s son. In fact, the two mommies have decided on an eventual arranged marriage between the kids and prepared the two families to become in-laws. Danielle snapped these shots when the babies had a play date together recently. Even though they’re just casual shots she didn’t set up, her talent and creativity show through. I’m so proud of these young people who have drive and determination and ambition, mixed with strong doses of integrity and optimism. When I look at my daughters and their friends and the stability and values they believe in, I know the future’s in good hands. Go to Danielle’s blog at

Snow and Paul Harvey

SnowBreaking news! It’s snowing in Alabama!!! We don’t get winter very Snowoften around here, but the weather folks were right this time. It’s a soft and lazy couple inches right now but supposed to get worse as temps stay below freezing and the snow continues all morning. I took these photos on our back deck looking into the backyard where earlier this week we were sitting out on the deck enjoying a glass of wine and some wonderfully Snowwarm temperatures. Now we’ve got a “major winter storm.” I know, I know — for all y’all used to blizzards and snow drifts and  shoveling your car out of the driveway these are Snowpictures of spring-like weather, but believe me this is big-time Southern winter. And we love it! Makes me want to hunker down, bring in more firewood or, really, turn the logs on and make another pot of coffee. It does not make me want to find some snow boots and mittens and a scarf and a jacket and go out tramping around. I love snow. It’s beautiful and wonderful — and best viewed through a window. Which is why my part in ski vacations is to stay warm and dry at the bottom of the slopes and nod and applaud enthusiastically as family members shoosh on by: “Good job! Nice run! Way to go!” I’m really good at that.

If you’re stuck inside today, be sure to read about Paul Harvey, who died on Saturday. Back in the early 1980s when I was a newbie newspaper reporter, I was thrilled — absolutely thrilled — when Paul Harvey read on air a story of mine AP had picked up on this new phenomenon of Elvis Presley impersonators. I focused on a young boy — I think he was 6 or 7 — who was making a local name for himself by donning a white sparkling jumpsuit and belting out “You Ain’t Nothing But a Hound Dog.” Thank you for that, Mr. Harvey. You never knew what you meant to a young journalist in east Tennessee. Read more about this influential man at

Photo Gifts

photo-books-003It’s not Valentine’s Day yet but you know you need to think photo-books-0061about those other gift-giving occasions coming up — weddings, graduations, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and family reunions. Want to earn fame as the best gift-giver ever? Two words: Photo books. Our older daughter and her husband gave us two for Christmas, and they top my grab-in-case-of-fire list (daughter and her husband as well as photo books, of course). I had seen these done as wedding albums but honestly never had considered them for anything else. What are photo books? They’re hardback bound photo-books-0041books printed with your own photos — your own personal photo album. My daughter said she got the idea after she photo-books-0052was bemoaning a small budget for gift giving and I told her all we her family wanted was more photos of new baby Capt. Adorable. After that, because she is young and techno-savvy and up on all sorts of cool stuff, she knew exactly what to do. There are several  sites that offer photo books (Kodak, Apple and HP do — search on “photo books” for more) . Liz chose Walgreens ( and was pleased with the results. She had great fun, she said, designing layouts and playing with the photos but if that’s not your thing you can make it as simple a process as you’d like. Prices range from $10 to $50 and up, depending on your choices.  She did one on our beach trips — Capt. Adorable’s first tastes of sand and surf — and one on his first six weeks. Everybody who sees these just melts and says, “These are wonderful! I want to do this.” And you can.